25th Anniversary Of THAT Crucible 147 By Ronnie O’Sullivan

'The Rocket' recorded snooker's quickest ever 147 on this day in 1997
17:58, 15 Apr 2022

In an amusing exchange at the official launch on Friday of the Betfred World Championship Ronnie O’Sullivan was asked if anyone could ever make a quicker 147 than the perfect maximum he made at the Crucible in a record five minutes and 20 seconds – some years later rounded down even lower by another 12 seconds. 

After initially shouting out in jest “Me!”, the Rocket admitted that he thought it was unlikely, that such a feat would not be something he would even attempt these days, and that the magical break in 1997 was a “moment” that he was capable of in his youth at a time when by his own admission “I could never have won the world title”. 

With the top 16 players gathered at the top table the banter started, with three-time champion Mark Williams – sitting between Zhao Xintong and Jack Lisowski, two of the fastest guns on tour – suggesting that the Chinese player was a likely candidate to beat the five minutes and eight seconds mark.  

That prompted four-time champion John Higgins to weigh in with “What about me?”, to which Williams replied “You’d need about 500 minutes.”  

But the whole episode served as a reminder of just what an incredible feat O’Sullivan pulled off that day 25 years ago at the Crucible. Although making 147s is far less rare these days with the overall standard on the tour considerably higher, that one still stands alone for the sheer speed and instinct displayed while making it with apparently a bare minimum of effort. 

Snooker perfection demands a player pots a black with each of all 15 reds and then all the colours to reach the famous number. At the time of writing there have been 175 made in history, with the first made by Steve Davis against John Spencer in 1982, which earned him a Lada car from the event sponsors. ​​​​​​

The first one ever made at the Crucible came from Canada’s Cliff Thorburn against Terry Griffiths at the World Championship the following year. And the most recent came from Scotland’s Graeme Dott in qualifying for the 2022 World Championship, though it wasn’t enough to see him through to the final stages. 

But the most famous one of all came a quarter of a century ago, from a cocky 21-year-old who while already a superstar with several titles including the UK Championship and the Masters tucked away and on his CV, was yet to win a world title. 

With the score at 8-5 to O’Sullivan, Mick Price left a safety shot short and from that moment the maximum always looked on, helped by a good split of the reds from the black about halfway through. But it was the sheer speed and fluency that made it such an iconic moment. 

Reflecting on the moment, O’Sullivan – who with pandemonium in the arena threw his chalk into the crowd, said: “After the second or third red I thought ‘This could be a 147’. You can smell it when it’s on, even though one dodgy positional shot and it’s over. When I went into the pack they split beautifully, though there was just one red on into the middle.  

“When you hear the crowd react because they know it’s on, then the pressure increases. It’s mad when I look back on it. It was a great break, but it also tells me why up to that point I hadn’t quite won the world title because it was just so fast, so instinctive that you can’t keep doing that sort of stuff.  

“I had to learn and develop as a player but if you put it on a showreel yeah, of course it would look good on there. Of all the things I have achieved in my career, that is a highlight. 

“Big Len Ganley, who was in charge, was one of our top referees. And I think that is how I got my nickname of ‘The Rocket’ from that break. I also remember getting beat in the next match to Darren Morgan. I thought ‘How do you go from making that 147 to losing in the next round?’ Everyone thought I was going to win the world title, but Darren put me in my place.” 

Opponent Price, 55, and now a maths teacher, said: ““I made a decent break and he played safe, and with my next safety shot I cut it a bit thin. Five minutes and eight seconds later, and I’m in the Guinness Book of Records.” 

The break came with a very substantial financial bonus, with O’Sullivan, who has made the most 147s (15), netting £147,000 for the maximum plus another £18,000 for the high-break prize, yielding a total of £165,000. 

And Neil Robertson, joining in the general debate on Friday, maintained that he still could not believe the carefree abandon with which the Rocket approached the break given the huge amount of money at stake. Although O’Sullivan appreciates a pound note as much as anyone, you would never have guessed it watching this 308 seconds that saw him pocket £536 with each second. 

O'Sullivan is 6/1 to win the Betfred World Championship 2022*

*18+ | BeGambleAware

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